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Posts Tagged ‘peace’

Abbas Turns Down Netanyahu’s Overture

Israeli prime minister Benyamin Netanyahu invited Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas to discuss peace today, but was refused for his failure to halt the settlements under the 2003 U.S.-initiated “roadmap” to peace.

Abbas said last month and again on Sunday in a letter to President Obama that he will not discuss “key issues” unless Israel stops the growth of settlements in the West Bank.

Reuters reports,

[Palestinian chief of the PLO Saeb] Erekat was responding to reports that Israel and the United States were discussing a compromise that would allow some building in existing settlements under what Israel terms “natural growth” to accommodate expanding families.

A U.S. official denied on Wednesday a report in the Israeli daily Maariv that the Obama administration agreed work could continue on 2,500 housing units whose construction had begun, despite its call for a total freeze to spur peace efforts.

The report followed talks in London last week between George Mitchell, Obama’s special Middle East envoy, and Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak aimed at healing a rift over continued settlement activity.

… 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war. Palestinians say Jewish settlements, deemed illegal by the World Court, would deny them a viable and contiguous state.

Western officials said the United States was moving in the direction of making allowances so Israel could finish off at least some existing projects which are close to completion or bound by private contracts that cannot be broken.

Israel estimates that 2,500 units are in the process of being built and cannot be stopped under Israeli law.

In an interview with Ha’aretz, Netanyahu’s national security adviser called the Palestinian government a stooge, or rather a “disorderly constellation of forces and factions.” Of Abbas he said, “But even with him I don’t see a real interest and desire to arrive at the end of the conflict with Israel. On the contrary, he is preserving eternal claims against us and inflaming them.”

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10
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Encouraged by Obama, Arab Governments Move Forward for Peace

For some at home, President Obama’s June 4th address to the Islamic and Arab worlds registered as apologetic, pandering and idealistic. Liberals and conservatives alike criticized the President for his calculated omission of the region’s civil and human rights violations and of Iran’s barefaced support of terrorism.

Leaders in the region, however, were pleased by the address and invigorated by the President’s call to engage. A week after the speech, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal arrived in Cairo at the invitation of the General Intelligence Chief, who, the government said, was acting on Obama’s signal to engage the “Islamist resistance movement.”

Egyptian daily Al Ahram reports,

The visit of the influential Hamas leader is meant to set the stage for a new — and Egyptian sponsors hope conclusive — round of national dialogue talks for all Palestinian factions due to convene in Cairo 7 July. Egyptian officials close to the preparations of the next round say that both Egypt and Hamas are “encouraged” by Obama’s signal to “engage” Hamas. They add that Obama’s speech made it clear for all concerned that Palestinian national reconciliation should be reached sooner rather than later.

In the words of one informed diplomat who spoke to Al-Ahram Weekly on condition of anonymity, “the Americans — to judge not just by the Obama speech and talks in Cairo and Riyadh, but also by successive delegations to the region — seem serious about getting engaged in talks for peace. Now the Palestinians and Arabs in general have to work to make these talks possible.” He added that if Obama is determined to pursue Middle East peace, “irrespective of any artificial deadline or timetables”, then “we’d better strip the Israelis of the pretext that there is no ready Palestinian partner”.

According to this source there is no confirmation that the next round of national reconciliation talks will succeed, but there is determination on the side of the Egyptian sponsor to push things forward.

The Arab League has also been moved by Obama’s call for action. On June 24th, Arab foreign ministers will assemble to “‘formulate a new line of Arab diplomacy’ compatible with the spirit of engagement the US president proposed,” Secretary-General Amr Moussa told Al Ahram.

Moussa said the “new line” seeks to create a reciprocal relationship between the Arab states and Israel. This goal was no doubt propelled by Benyamin Netanyahu’s speech earlier this week, in which he–caveats aside– supported the possibility of a two-state solution and an end to the settlements.

In his talks with General Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman and Moussa, Meshaal insisted that a “viable Palestinian state” includes the 1967 borders outlined in the Palestinian national accord.

The fate of inter-Palestinian negotiations are similarly tenuous. Meshaal told Al Jazeera that Fatah security forces have been conducting raids against Hamas in the West Bank. Meshaal called the raids “the most difficult obstacle” to reconciliation.

The recent raids in the West Bank, which prompted deadly violence in the city of Qalqilya, have fuelled concerns of a wider conflagration between armed units of Fatah and Hamas.

Meshaal said Hamas and Egyptian officials had discussed how to resolve the crisis, examining options such as freeing Hamas political detainees and ending the security crackdown in the West Bank.

Despite the many hurdles to peace, Dina Ezzat of Al Ahram purports that Egypt is embracing its position as “engagement liason” to reconfigure and cement positive relations with the United States.

From the Egyptian perspective, the resumption of peace talks and positive US engagement in the Middle East is improving bilateral relations. “Egyptian-American relations are moving on a positive path because there is a will on the side of the [new US] administration to conduct dialogue rather than dictate policies as was the case with the previous administration.”

Egyptian and Arab officials say they are considering stepping up consultations with — and maybe also visits to — the US in order to keep the “positive” momentum going. “We want details beyond the speech” and the guidelines that were offered during the Obama talks in Riyadh and Cairo, commented one Egyptian diplomat. He said that future talks between Egyptian, as well as Arab, officials and their US counterparts should focus on these details.

— Tina Carter, Trinity ’10